Faust and the Hollow Carrot:
How the State Board of Education Hopes You’ll Bet
Your Certification for the Promise of a Bigger Paycheck
Are you willing to trade your career for a potential increase to your salary? What would it take for you to trade your current certification process for the poorly conceived tiered certification rule recently approved by the Idaho State Board of Education? At least one State Board member is apparently hoping it wouldn’t take much. Last week, Idaho State Board of Education member Richard Westerberg took an unprecedented step into politicking and wrote a letter directly to the teachers of Idaho trying to sell you a hollow carrot. Not only was the letter misleading, but it makes a poor argument for why a teacher should sell their soul in the Faustian scheme of tiered certification.
His letter could lead one to believe that the IEA supports the current rule. Not true. The IEA did vote to support the concepts of tiered certification and career ladders when we participated in the 2013 Governor’s Task Force meetings. In fact, the IEA has long supported these concepts and we worked on career ladder proposals as far back as the 1980s. Our most recent proposal, WeTeach, was introduced to the legislature in 2006 as an alternative to Mr. Luna’s IStars merit pay scheme. However, even as we voted to support the concept of tiered certification and career ladders at the 2013 task force meeting, we made it clear to the members of the committee that “the devil was in the details.” We knew that our ability to support a final plan would depend upon the details of the final plan. At subsequent Tiered Licensure/Career Ladder meetings held over the course of this spring and summer, the IEA has vehemently opposed the plan to tie a teacher’s certification to his/her local evaluation. Why? Simply stated employment is a local decision. Licensure or certification is a state responsibility, and the two should never be mingled.
In his letter, Mr. Westerberg states that “nearly half of the 2014 Career Ladder/Tiered Licensure Committee are teachers…” The process is not at all how Mr. Westerberg portrayed it. In fact, of the 19 members on this committee, there was one current teacher, one teacher on leave, one retired teacher who is now serving as a senator, three administrators, five legislators, a couple of school board representatives, Tom Luna, and an assortment of other bureaucrats. In fact, I did reach out to Mr. Westerberg to ask that more teachers be appointed to this committee and he flatly refused, even while he added an additional voting legislator to the committee. Make no mistake: there was no melting pot. There was no kumbaya.
The hollow carrot now dangling in front of Idaho public educators is the promise of money in exchange for a strict tiered certification scheme that will make one’s ability to teach subject to uncontrollable and wildly arbitrary factors, including local, subjective evaluations. Some legislators who served on the committee argued repeatedly that tiered certification linked to career ladders would make more money available for teacher compensation…only if the tiered certificate scheme is made rule. But look closely. Mr. Westerberg’s letter states, “The final committee recommendations for the career ladder have yet to be completed.” There is, and never has been a guarantee that the legislature will put more money into teacher compensation over the next 6-7 years. Will they or won’t they really fully fund the career ladder? Even though Mr. Westerberg states, “The two must be approved together,” the rule only contains the price teachers will pay and none of the promised reward.
Skepticism is completely understandable, since the Idaho Legislature has a long history of unfunded mandates. In the mid-1980’s the Idaho Legislature passed the “Idaho School Improvement Act” which promised, along with significant base salary increases, a provision for locally-developed Career Ladder programs. All across the state, local school districts developed programs and teachers were urged to undertake projects and training to ensure they would be eligible for the Career Ladder program funding that they were assured would follow. After several years of work and training by educators, lawmakers refused to fund their own program and the law was eventually repealed.
In the early 1990’s, teachers in their first three years of employment in a district gave up their due process protections in exchange for an assurance that they would receive mentoring, peer assistance, professional development, and administrative support. Just a few short years after the law was changed, legislators eliminated funding for the program. Soon thereafter, district programs ended and new teachers were left without protections or support
If, like me, you are not interested in the hollow carrot Mr. Westerberg is waving in front of you, then now is the time to act. I urge you to read everything you can about this proposed rule and then share your comments and concerns with the State Board of Education. If you live in the area, please plan to attend one of the three scheduled public hearings: October 7 in Pocatello, October 14 in Lewiston or October 21 in Nampa. If you’re not able to attend one of the hearings, we’ve made it easy for you to submit your comments to the State Board. Use our comment form at http://idahoea.org/tiered-certification-comments.
I’d love to talk with you more. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.